Two weeks ago, I considered As Foretold's applications in Modern control decks. My starting points were Pillow Fort and UB Control, but by the end of the article (and, incidentally, the time I prepared to publish it), I'd turned my attention to integrating the Amonkhet highlight into Modern's longest-standing control deck: Jeskai. Over the past two weeks, I've tried a number of more traditional control shells with As Foretold, and have been impressed by my findings.
This week, we'll look at my new blueprint for building reactive blue decks with As Foretold and check out the two decks I've spent the most time on lately.
Building an As Foretold Deck
To succeed, As Foretold decks must benefit immensely from resolving the enchantment, but not auto-lose when they fail to find one. After all, Modern's a format known for Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Surgical Extraction; with a little resolve, keeping an As Foretold player off their namesake card can prove just as easy as attacking a linear deck. Perhaps fortunately, there are few enough worthwhile payoff cards in Modern (read: highly impactful, manaless suspend cards) that stuffing our deck full of the best As Foretold enablers still leaves plenty of room to win in other ways.
To win, we have to not die. As Foretold decks are incentivized by Restore Balance to go very light on creatures, meaning they need plenty of removal to survive against creature decks. Cheaper removal like Bolt, Push, Path, and Condemn are the most appealing options; one-mana spells play nice with As Foretold and allow us to spend more mana cantripping.
Targeted discard can also disrupt opponents long enough for our gameplan to come online. Inquisition of Kozilek seems better than Thoughtseize in the mainboard. Since the purpose of these slots is to weather early assaults, the card that doesn't help opponents kill us but forces us to take the things we want anyway is the clear favorite.
A third way to ensure we resolve As Foretold fast enough is to ramp into it. Since we can't play mana dorks with Restore Balance, I think the best way to unlock this achievement is with Modern's most divisive monkey, Simian Spirit Guide. Guide also has the benefit of fixing our curve if we want to focus on one- and three-drops, which As Foretold also incentivizes us to do. And if we're also using Guide to ramp into heavy-duty disruption like Blood Moon, we stand to buy ourselves even more time.
Modern's best-known consistency method is redundancy—if you want to draw a certain card, play a lot of copies. We can only play 4 As Foretold, though, so once we've maxed out there (and on our suspend spells) we must turn to cantrips to help smooth out our gameplan.
Serum Visions is Modern's king cantrip, so it's an easy include at 4. Sleight of Hand is a little more questionable, but I have found it to be terrific in these decks. Playing the full 8 blue cantrips makes our As Foretolds much more consistent, in addition to helping with land drops and disruption. Getting the card right away also works well with an active As Foretold.
In builds splashing red, Faithless Looting is also worth considering. Looting digs us into two new cards right away and gives us a way to ditch dead cards. We can even use it twice! The card's drawback is that casting it forces us to go -1. I don't think that's such a big deal, though, thanks to Restore Balance. In fact, having a way to rapidly dump cards from our hand is something of an upside, since it allows us to hellbent opponents off a Balance if needed.
Board wipes definitely buy time, but we still need to win. Being forced to wait five turns to draw into a win condition after removing all the creatures can put us into some bad spots if opponents follow up with individual threats. Burning bad Balances on those creatures can be brutal for us, especially if we have lots of cards from a last-turn Visions or want to spend our As Foretold casting a this-turn Visions. The most elegant solution to this problem is to simply start pressuring right away after we clear the board, forcing opponents into a defensive role once they've been declawed.
Creature win-cons are off-limits in a Restore Balance deck, although Bolt-Snap-Bolt is a plan creature-light enough (and enough in line with our other goals) to do some of the work. As I found a couple weeks ago, planeswalkers make the best win conditions. The trouble is finding one that can win the game fast enough. I maintain that Nahiri, the Harbinger is the ideal walker to pair with As Foretold, but forcing us into Jeskai colors (and an Emrakul) is a serious deterrent to running her. Creature lands are also interesting, with Creeping Tar Pit striking me as the most reasonable choice.
These days, I start all my As Foretold decks like this:
As Foretold Core:
Then, based on the interactive color I'm in, I'll add some other staples.
- Red: Lightning Bolt, Faithless Looting, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Greater Gargadon
- Black: Fatal Push, Collective Brutality, Liliana of the Veil
- White: Path to Exile, Condemn
It might go without saying, but As Foretold decks will have to dip into one or more of these three colors to function. The Simic combination simply doesn't have enough efficient removal to survive the early turns, even with Restore Balance as a mid-game plan. Besides, what green cards would we even want?
Of red, black, and white, red boasts the most perks. The color has a win-condition walker, powerful cantrips, and the most flexible of Modern's one-mana removal spells. Lightning Bolt makes Snapcaster Mage a serious consideration, as having reach gives us a way to milk its 2/1 body for more than value. Looting gets us to mana, disruption, As Foretold, or suspend spells right away, helps us hemorrhage cards for Restore Balance, and flashes back from the grave to fix crummy Ancestral Visions. And Gargadon gives Restore Balance a whole other angle of attack by tacking Armageddon onto its text box.
Black comes next. Liliana of the Veil is the scariest planeswalker in Modern, and a nightmare for fair creature decks and critical-mass combo decks alike. Unfortunately, she won't end the game on her own—if only she had Liliana, the Last Hope's ultimate, instead!
The biggest draws to black, though, are Fatal Push and Collective Brutality. Push is simply Modern's MVP when it comes to staying alive on turns 1-4, making it a perfect fit for this deck. Similarly to Looting, Brutality gets along swimmingly with Restore Balance, and also lets us do way more than we should be able to for the mana we have available. Catching up on tempo is crucial in a deck casting tons of cantrips and a three-mana enchantment. While Restore Balance helps here by coming down right away, it doesn't hurt to have an additional "card sink" for while we set up.
White offers by far the least of the three colors. While Path to Exile's drawback is negligible in a Restore Balance deck, giving opponents lands early can still bite us in the butt. Besides, the creatures we need to remove early can often be killed with Bolt or Push. Restore Balance tends to take care of the more resilient threats opponents can produce in longer games, making unconditional removal spells unnecessary.
That removal suite is still one of the color's upsides. While playing multiple one-mana removal spells usually forces us into three colors (i.e. Grixis for Bolt and Push), white has two superb options in-color: Path and Condemn. Going UW allows As Foretold players to run a high density of one-mana kill spells without asking much of their mana base. Another draw is white's unmatched sideboard selection, including the almighty Rest in Peace, a card As Foretold strategies can accommodate at no cost (Snapcaster Mage isn't a core choice).
Full Moon Rising
We've covered how I approach As Foretold deckbuilding. Now, let's get into some lists!
Here's my take on a Spirit Guide-featuring As Foretold deck. Guide helps power out As Foretold, Moon, and Chandra early. As with Looting and Brutality, the card disadvantage of pitching a card to make a mana is grossly offset by the advantage gleaned from casting Ancestrals for zero and Restore Balance at will, plus Guide offers free wins when it accelerates out a hate piece.
I wanted to build an As Foretold deck in UR that could take advantage of Blood Moon. Amazingly, the deck actually started without Guide. I added the monkey to fix the curve, which was far too focused around the three-drop slot. Mana Leak also made the cut as a two-of for this reason; it gives us something else of value to do on turn two.
To make room for the pair of Leaks, I had to cut a Sleight of Hand. Looting is usually better in this deck, although we rarely want to draw three copies thanks to flashback (which is why I kept it below 4). Its cycling effect ends up psuedo-drawing us more than two cards most of the time, as we can drop extra Moons, Guides, or As Foretolds to it. Running lock pieces that do nothing in multiples make our discard-as-drawback spells much better.
We only play one Gargadon because it's basically just dead in multiples. We can cycle extras away to Looting, sure, but we really want to be drawing interaction or acceleration in the early-game. Having dead Moons or Guides is much more forgivable because the first Moon we draw slows our opponent down enough that we can stabilize or find a Looting, and the Guides we draw get us to a game-state in which we don't care about some virtual card disadvantage. But drawing multiple Gargadons early without a way to loot them away results in a loss against most of the faster decks. Besides, our many filter effects help find the one copy when our plan is "blow up all the lands." In those scenarios, the board is usually locked down, we have As Foretold on the battlefield, and are just chaining cantrips.
This deck has a couple of weaknesses. For one, it can struggle with enemy Tarmogoyfs (and, by extension, Death's Shadows). Moon helps against the Goyf decks, but they usually pack a good amount of discard, so it's not unheard of to lose to a 4/5 after our combo pieces get Inquisitioned away. We sorely miss something like Fatal Push here.
Second, UR has trouble closing out games. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is great, but since we can't have multiples on the board, we can't run too many in the deck. Creature lands aren't an option either, since we want to play Blood Moon. I even considered a Stormbreath Dragon despite its expensive mana cost to help with this problem.
Usurping Tasigur's Throne
The next step I took was to splash black, essentially dropping Blood Moon to shore up both of the UR deck's weaknesses.
Liliana and Push give us way better chances against Goyf decks, Death's Shadow Jund included. Those matchups become favorable with the Grixis build. Collective Brutality is another piece of high-impact disruption. It does cannibalize Faithless Looting's required resource of "cards to spare," so the cantrip gets the axe and we go back to 4 Sleight. Brutality is just way too good in this deck (and in Modern generally) to pass up; I have liked all three copies.
With Push in the mix, we have enough juicy targets to want to max out on Snapcaster Mage. 4 Snap, 4 Bolt is a real plan, and complemented by Chandra and Brutality, it becomes even better. This Moon-less deck gets Creeping Tar Pit, which deals plenty of damage and is very tough to stop when we strip an opponent's hand with Brutality and Restore Balance. Greater Gargadon also goes to two copies in this build, giving us yet another way to win the game.
Sans Looting, this version has less dig than UR, but it's better at disrupting opponents (we'll have time to naturally draw into what we need). As a result, I think we want that second Gargadon. We love seeing the Beast once most games, and don't have to worry so much about clogging while getting attacked, as we have more ways than UR to remove opposing threats.
And the Brew Goes On
I think I'm on the right track with these As Foretold brews, but I don't know how close to optimized my lists are. I'm excited for the card to become legal and for other deckbuilders to start experimenting with it. In any case, I won't stop tweaking—attacking and blocking may have my heart, but there's no way I'm passing up the opportunity to write another 1,000 articles on a 2U mythic rare.